Former Prime Minister and Air New Zealand board member John Key says he will be concerned if strikes within the airline occurred over the Christmas holiday period.

Aircraft engineers, aircraft logistics and related staff have scheduled a strike just four days before Christmas – the airline's busiest travel day of the year.

Speaking to Q & A last night, Key said he would be concerned if the planned strike action went ahead.

He said the engineers were well paid – "this is not the part of the workforce, for instance, that is less well paid; they are well paid New Zealanders who get lots of benefits".


He said the reality for the company is if the engineers go on strike, Air NZ would have to cancel "literally thousands of flights".

"If you think about Christmas, it's the one time where a lot of New Zealand families get the one chance to reunite with other family members and friends and take some well-earned time out.

"For us as the national carrier to disrupt their Christmas holidays through arguably no fault of our own, I think would be a real tragedy."

He said it was incumbent on both sides to try to get around the table and find a solution.

Meanwhile, Key – who is also the chairman of ANZ's New Zealand operations – responded to criticism around the bank's $2 billion profit.

He said ANZ was a large company that had a "financial relationship with one in two New Zealanders" and $127 billion worth of loans to Kiwis.

Key said ANZ was the largest single corporate taxpayer in the country, paying more than
5 per cent of all corporate tax in New Zealand.

The closure of some of its rural branches had been met with criticism from the likes of Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones.

But Key said ANZ was responding to "what customers actually want".

He said most ANZ customers use internet banking on average twice a day but would only go into a physical bank twice a year.

"We have closed some branches, and I think that is consistent with lots of banks – Kiwibank has been doing that [as well as] us."

He said ANZ was looking for "creative ways" to make sure it keeps branches open for some of the bank's older customers.

Although he did not mind Jones being critical of him, Key said Jones' criticisms of corporate New Zealand "need to be justified and warranted".

And he said Jones was not warranted to criticise Air NZ cancelling some regional services.
"Air NZ has been increasing capacity and reducing costs for New Zealanders in terms of flying.

"We have cancelled some of the routes, but we still have accessibility in a pretty good way."

On New Zealand's relationship with China, Key said he thought the People's Republic was a "rapidly emerging as a superpower".

He said it was critical for New Zealand to have a strong relationship with both China and the US.

He said New Zealand would always raise issues, such as those of human rights, with China.

"But the real way to build change in any country is to have good open dialogue and engagement."